Summer is off to a bad start in the UK. Prime Minister Boris Johnson resolved on June 14 to postpone for four weeks the lifting of the last anti-Covid restrictions in England. He hopes to contain the disturbing outbreak of the Delta (Indian) variant through vaccination.
The European country most bereaved by the pandemic (nearly 128,000 dead) was able to remove a number of restrictions, thanks to a long containment and a very effective vaccination campaign.
Read also: The Pfizer vaccine is effective on the Indian variant, according to a new study
The euphoria and the impression of victory in the face of the virus are however clouded by the sudden deterioration observed in recent weeks. Contaminations have dropped from 2,000 to 7,000 per day and hospitalizations are starting to increase, even if the number of deaths per day remains below 10.
This trend is attributed to the Delta variant initially detected in India, now dominant in the country and accounting for 96% of new cases.
Last phase postponed in England
To give himself time and avoid worsening the trend, Boris Johnson, long reluctant, announced on June 14 that he had taken the “difficult decision” to postpone the last stage of his deconfinement plan for England.
Each region of the kingdom has its own calendar: in England, the last phase was to take place on June 21, it is postponed to July 19.
This phase was to result in the end of the limitation to six indoor meetings, the authorization for pubs to serve at the bar and for theaters to operate at full capacity. The only concession is that wedding receptions will no longer be limited to 30 guests from June 21.
“We can not continue (…) when there is a real possibility that the virus outperforms vaccines and thousands more deaths follow,” argued Boris Johnson. He explained that he wanted to give the health service “a few crucial weeks” to continue the vaccination.
Living with the virus
“We must be clear that we cannot simply eliminate the Covid, we must learn to live with it,” he warned, believing that the immunization campaign should allow it.
The goal is now to offer by July 19 a first dose to all adults and two doses to two thirds of adults, including all over 50 and vulnerable. Currently, almost 80% of adults have received one dose but only 57% have received two doses.
Vaccines against viruses
According to studies conducted by the British health authorities, with a single dose, vaccines are less effective against symptomatic forms of the Delta variant than other variants. However, two doses of Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines are more than 90% effective against hospitalizations.
“We are engaged in a race against the virus and vaccines must take the lead,” insisted the government’s scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance.
Serious economic fallout
The UK Hospitality hotel and catering federation has estimated the sector’s shortfall at three billion pounds (3.5 billion euros) with one month postponing the end of deconfinement, also worrying about ” a ricochet effect on reservations all summer and in autumn “and asking for new public aid.
The Night Time Industry Association representing the nightlife estimates that a quarter of companies in the sector will not survive another month of shutdown without new support. She fears that the workforce will permanently desert these establishments.
The famous composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose musicals like “Cats” or “The Phantom of the opera” have achieved enormous success in London and New York, has already warned: he plans to reopen his theater to launch his production of “Cinderella”, even if it means risking prison.